If you're the kind of person who believes in fate, Chris Weidman may one day prove to be a card worth playing in debates on the topic. First, he has a little more work to take care of. But even his case until now makes a convincing argument.
It all began last July, when Weidman knocked out Mark Munoz and requested a chance to fight champion Anderson Silva. Since then, Weidman has mostly sat idle while the division and its contenders have swirled around him. Helpless, all he could do was hope things went his way. The first response wasn't good; Silva wasn't interested in fighting him. But then, things began to break his way. Hector Lombard lost. Alan Belcher lost. Georges St-Pierre turned down a superfight with Silva in order to fight Nick Diaz.
Even a Weidman injury turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Just weeks after his home was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy, Weidman could stay home with his family and focus on rebuilding. While he did that, his replacement Costa Philippou upset contender Tim Boetsch lost, and later, Michael Bisping lost, too.
In the end, there was really no better option for Silva. It was Weidman or bust.
"Without a doubt, it feels like fate," Weidman told MMA Fighting. "When I got injured, I was down, but I did feel like something better was going to happen out of this. I thought I was going to get an even bigger fight than the Boetsch fight. I didn't have my hopes up too much that it would be Anderson, but I knew there was a chance it could be. Everybody who could have had a shot lost. Things went my way. I'm grateful and humble for the opportunity."
In order to take the fight, Weidman needed one final thing to go his way.
On Tuesday, Weidman went to see his doctor for what he hoped was the last time. After having his shoulder checked out, he was pronounced healed; 100 percent healthy.
Unbeknownst to him, later that night, Silva, who was in New York for the FOX Sports 1 announcement, sat down with UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta to talk about the future. Fertitta pitched Silva on the idea of headlining the main event during Las Vegas' "International Fight Week," a concept that was created in 2012 to bring added traffic to the city and increased attention on the show. By the end of their conversation, Silva had agreed to fight Weidman.
The next morning, Fertitta and Weidman traveled separately to Albany, where they would lobby state legislators to pass a bill that would regulate MMA. As it turned out, Weidman was late, and joined a radio interview with Fertitta in progress. When it was over, the two walked into a hallway where Fertitta told him the news.
"I said, 'Really?'" Weidman said. "I said, 'I love you, man. That's freaking awesome.' I wasn’t getting my hopes up for the fight even though Dana [White] said publicly that it will happen. I just didn't want to get my hopes up for no reason. I didn't want to believe it until it was announced."
Feritta's disclosure washed over him throughout the day. Weidman said during his meetings with legislators, he caught himself day-dreaming about the Silva fight several times. After all of the events of the preceding months, he couldn't be blamed.
As he has in the past, the unbeaten 28-year-old put out a bold prediction. He doesn't just envision a win over the man most consider the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. No, that's not quite enough.
"I'm very motivated to make the most of this opportunity and not just be another title contender," he said. "Every other time I've had a full training camp, I've had a finish. And I plan on continuing that. I'm going against the greatest of all-time, but that's not going to change my confidence of what I'm going to do in there. I'm very excited."
With four months to go until fight night, Weidman plans to slowly work his way into camp as a precaution against re-injuring his shoulder. Meanwhile, repairs on his house are nearly complete, as well. He hopes to have renovations finalized within 2-3 weeks.
It's been quite a whirlwind, everything falling apart and then coming back together. Some might even call it fate. But for that, Weidman needs his perfect ending. And that will require more than just the forces of nature.
"I believe this is meant to be," he said. "It's not meant to be that I get there to lose. I'd be disgusted with myself if that happens. I refuse to let myself be beat. After all this, I believe I'm meant to win."